Thursday, January 10, 2019

From Ansel Adams’s 1963 Fiat Lux

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Maalouf family

Review of Nassim Maalouf's Improvisations Orientales Video: La trompette arabe de Nassim Maalouf (non-French speakers are advised to watch up to ~4:00) His son, Ibrahim Maalouf "is noted for playing Arabic music with quarter tones on the trumpet, which is a rare skill, pioneered by his father and Don Ellis in the 1960s." Also review. They play a microtonal four-valve trumpet, with a fourth valve played by a left index finger. There are not a whole lot of close-up pics, this is the best I could find (youtube). I did find an article on trumpet modifications, tho.

Monday, April 27, 2015


Letter by Clarke - even if it's fake, still hilarious.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Notes on style and then some

Listening to a lot of euphonium on youtube in the last few days. I heard a few euph+piano duos and they are uniformly amazing. Here are a few: Piazzolla's Café 1930 and Ibert's La cage de cristal by Anthony Caillet, Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata; Badinerie and Chiapanecas on tuba.
I also listened to several examples of baritone as a part of jazz combo and found it rather underwhelming. The deep rich sound that complements solo piano so well tends to get lost somewhere in the sonic muck and in general sounds rather out of place.

Also, today I learned of anime series about euphonium. I... uh... am struggling to find words... Actually, instead of trying to come up with something meaningful to say, I think I'll just up and move to Japan.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Buescher 400 trumpet

The other of my two main horns at the moment, the first being Holton Collegiate.

Buescher Company was active in the first part of the XXth century and is primarily known for their saxes. They made pro trumpets, as well, but these never developed a cult and so are less desirable and cheaper than vintage Martin Committees or top of the line Oldses.
"The 400" is actually a name, and based on early Buescher ads, it's a reference to the 400 elite of New York, "supposedly the number of people Mrs William Backhouse Astor, Jr's ballroom could accommodate." @
It's a nice horn, dating to 1938 - much like this, but more beat up. It cost me about $130 on eBay and it took another hundred in repairs to return it to a playing condition. I had it since July but it took a little while to get it up to speed. Cosmetically it is still imperfect, with silver plating coming off at the pistons, but the valves are fast and smooth, the response is excellent, and the upper register is quite easy. There are indeed some subtle "Art Deco" touches, like the shape of the pistons, that make it a distinctive and cool design.

Ultimately, a lot about the horn sound and feel depends on the mouthpiece. I tried my Holton 24 deep V, but it felt really strange. The notes higher than top-of-the-staff G completely deteriorated. Maybe this is because some trumpets (like my Holton Collegiate?) are supposed to "slot tight" and can tolerate hard-to-control mouthpieces, whereas Bueschers "slot loose" and need a mouthpiece that is easier to control. I tried a 7C, but eventually settled on a vintage HN White Equa-Tru.
First I was using a 32 (medium), but then got an 11 (deep) and use that now. Equa-Tru's show up on eBay quite often; usually they are 32s (their "default," I guess). I wouldn't mind getting a 34 shallow, but more for collecting purposes; I dislike shallow mouthpieces.

I also bought a genuine Buescher mouthpiece, but eBay mp purchases are always a shot in the dark - it turned out to be an extra-shallow "screamer" that ended on a shelf.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I came across some old issues of Jacob's Orchestra Monthly on Google Books, was looking through the 1918 issue, and suddenly stumbled on a full-page ad for my Couturier mellophone. Now I know what falling through a crack in the time-space continuum feels like.

I have to say that "perfect intonation" is a bit of overstatement... but it might be a little too late to complain.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Trombone Slide Lubrication and other Practical Information for Brass Players in Joseph Fröhlich’s Musikschule (1813) by Howard Weiner

• Protect the lungs; therefore avoid excitement, vigorous running and riding, and excessive consumption of fiery drinks; that is to say, lead a moderate life conducive to good health and playing. Neglecting this will weaken the lungs, making breathing difficult and depriving the player of the capability of playing entire phrases in one breath.
• Do not practice too long; better more often than too much at one time. Conductors who put wind players through their paces in rehearsals of four to five hours without pause are ignorant of the instruments and are guilty of driving the players prematurely into their graves.
• Do not play after eating or while digesting. The scheduling of rehearsals in the afternoon or even immediately after meals is extremely misguided.
• Do not play when ill or suffering respiratory problems—the lungs will be harmed or even ruined for the rest of one’s life.
• Do not drink immediately after playing when the lungs are still warm (the cause of many a premature death). If the mouth is dry, which is disadvantageous for the embouchure, it is best to rinse it out with an alcoholic liquor, which provides invigoration and new strength to the lips.
• It is easier to play if the instrument is good. Frugality is out of place when buying an instrument.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mute point

Possibly the first trumpet mute ever, 1865.
[CORRECTION: of course not. A wooden trumpet mute is mentioned in 1813 Musikschule, next entry. This is possibly the first patent for a mute.]

"In all musical instruments, such as are usually made of brass or German silver, and comprised under the general term of brass instruments, it has heretofore been a great annoyance for the neighborhood, if a person commences to practice on such an instrument. The sounds produced by unpracticed persons are really distressing. It has, therefore, been a great desideratum to have what is termed a mute, that is to say, a device which will deaden the sound without altering the tune."

Friday, November 22, 2013


We are musicians and our model is sound not literature, sound not mathematics, sound not theatre, visual arts, quantum physics, geology, astrology or acupuncture
- Gérard Grisey

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

...A Pastoral Symphony (Symphony No. 3), which draws on his experiences as an ambulance volunteer in that war, including a cadenza for trumpet in the second movement based on a bugler practicing and repeatedly hitting a wrong note, a flattened seventh, which Vaughan Williams alludes to in the symphony.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Long cornets

On development of long cornets, from Joel Treybig, A Cornetist’s Perspective on Stravinsky’s "Histoire du Soldat" International Trumpet Guild Journal, Oct02(49)

It is interesting to note that Histoire was composed at a time when the cornet was an instrument undergoing constant changes in construction and design, particularly by American makers. During the first 30 years of the twentieth century, there was a general shift away from the “short” shepherd’s crook model instruments toward longer cornets, some wound in as many differing manners as one can imagine. Some of these instruments maintained shepherd’s crook bells of varying degrees while other models did away with them completely. A 1917 article from Holton’s Harmony Hints underscores American virtuoso Herbert L. Clarke’s ideas for developing a longer model cornet:

He did not favor the long model cornet because it did not have the real cornet tone. Clarke admitted the long model cornet had some qualities that were good, but generally speaking, the tone was too broad – it lacked the compactness and solidity of tone which a cornet should have. He argued (and rightly too) that a cornet was an entirely different instrument than a trumpet and should not possess the tone characteristics of the trumpet. It seemed that band instrument manufacturers catered more to style rather than to concentrating their efforts in perfecting a genuine cornet.
The old style short model cornet had the tone, but as all cornet players know, it was out of tune – and did not have carrying power. The long model, he found, could be built in tune and had carrying power, but it did not have the tone quality he was looking for.
The thing to do was to build a cornet that combined the best qualities of the two – a cornet that would be in perfect tune, had carrying power and a tone of great solidity and compactness – of immense volume – brilliant, yet with a mellow sustaining quality that kept away from both the Flugel Horn tone and that of the trumpet – a tone belonging distinctively to the cornet.

The Holton-Clarke model cornet that was produced was at first made with a slight shepherd’s crook, then later with a standard long-bell. To judge a cornet solely by its bell crook would be to use a very cursory criterion. Rather, the flare of the bell, the flare of the tubing, the depth and shape of the mouthpiece, and the bore of the instrument all have much greater bearing on the production of a characteristic cornet tone. It is a disservice to consider such long-bell model horns as being inauthentic or inferior, as many were high quality professional models produced by such companies as Bach, Buescher, Conn, Holton, H.N. White’s (“King”) Martin, Olds, and York. While such horns were not a part of the early brass band tradition, they were widely used by American cornet players and in many American bands for many years. In fact, long-bell cornets were used and promoted by such important players as Vincent Bach, Gerard Schwarz, Frank Simon, Leonard Smith, Walter Smith, Del Staigers, Ernest Williams, and jazz players such as “Wild” Bill Davison and Nat Adderly, among others.
Later cornets often added throw rings on the adjustable valve slides, to help the player compensate for pitch problems inherent in trumpets and cornets.

Incidentally, it's worth noting that the ITG Journal claims the archives are only available to members, but almost all back articles can be found through Google search - and they certainly have a wealth of materials.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The human factor

The reason for the investigation of the long cornet history (next post) is a Holton-Clarke cornet I recently bought. "Wound in as many differing manners as one can imagine" is right - that thing has a very strange-looking s-shaped wrap to the tubing past the leadpipe, with no less that two "tuning slides" - one a true tuning slide and another a key change slide. Holton-Clarke seems to have been a professional model, good quality instrument, reasonably abundant on eBay and thus pretty cheap - I wonder why it is not touted as a sleeper? It seems to be very dependent on the right mouthpiece, though: I tried a few and was very unhappy with the sound I was getting; the right one seems to be the one it came with - a shallow Holton Revelation 72. It sounds very bright, not much like a cornet, but the deep mouthpieces I tried (including a Conn EZ Tone that also came with it) just don't work too well. I think there was a change in the mouthpiece shank length standard around 40s or 50s, this instrument set up for the old, shorter ones.

But the interesting part is something else: I found a handful of medals inside the case: Illinois Grade School Band Assoc. - "Ensemble," "Concert," "Solo." There are small inked numbers on the backs of the ribbons - 63, 64, then two more medals without dates but with IHSA - high school, I assume. Looks like the kid was quite invested in the instrument. I wonder if he got a new one for college and left this one behind together with the trophies, or just stopped playing altogether? He shouldn't be that old, either - finishing middle school in '64 makes him just over 60...

Saturday, October 8, 2011


The way I see it, the music is a kind of survival strategy in these present dark times.

A great interview.

Friday, September 16, 2011


We have also sound-houses, where we practise and demonstrate all sounds and their generation. We have harmony which you have not, of quarter-sounds and lesser slides of sounds. Divers instruments of music likewise to you unknown, some sweeter than any you have; with bells and rings that are dainty and sweet. We represent small sounds as great and deep, likewise great sounds extenuate and sharp; we make divers tremblings and warblings of sounds, which in their originalare entire. We represent and imitate all articulate sounds and letters, and the voices and notes of beasts and birds. We have certain helps which, set to the ear, do further the hearing greatly; we have also divers strange and artificial echoes, reflecting the voice many times, and, as it were,tossing it; and some that give back the voice louder than it came, some shriller and some deeper; yea, some rendering the voice, differing in the letters or articulate sound from that they receive. We have all means to convey sounds in trunks and pipes, in strange lines and distances.

- Sir Francis Bacon, THE NEW ATLANTIS (1624)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mozart - Horn duos

I recently discovered Mozart's horn duos and I love them; no. 4 and 6 in particular are great. The duos are written for a high and a low horn, whatever those are, but they fit well on trumpet and mellophone (Bb and Eb); so my transcriptions will also work for two saxes. I just finished the sixth (menuetto), might put up some of them in the next week. Others transcribed them before; someone is selling a two-trumpet transcription book on ebay.

Unfortunately, I could not find any commercial recording for these - unlike Bach's Inventions, for which there are at least a dozen recordings out there. I have to guess at the tempos from the titles (larghetto - must be sort of slow) and my technical limitations (the 16th-note run - can only play it so fast). I also wish I could hear the articulation and phrasing...

P.S. I stand corrected: the duos are available as a part of Marriner and AoSMitF's Wind Divertimienti recordings. They are truly beautiful, the horns almost sound like a piano. Here they are: mediafire.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Yay marimba!

I've heard that Bach's solo cello suites were done on marimba and was wondering how that sounds. That's still a mystery, but meanwhile the curious can check out Mozart's Flute Quartet done on five marimbas:
W. A. Mozart - Flute Quartet No.1 in D Major K285,
I. Allegro
II. Adagio
III. Rondeau

UPDATE 12/17/2013: A mystery revealed - BACH Cello Suite No. 5 for Marimba - Jisu Jung

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ill Wind

...a bit of a devil to play...
The lyrics

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Charles Ives to a heckler at a concert:
Stand up and take your dissonance like a man!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bach's Prelude No.1

This is, of course, one of the most famous Bach pieces - the opening prelude to his Well-Tempered Clavier book I, BWV 846. It's been called an encapsulation of the entire WTC and is a favorite of music theorists; there are multiple contrafacts on it, most famous being Gounod's Ave Maria. It is a favorite of classical piano and guitar players for being a sequence of arpeggios and thus relatively easy to play. Of course, that's exactly what makes it *hard* to play on a trumpet. This would be my "some day" piece, along with Tempo di Minueto from Partita No.5 - that thing is hardcore...
I had to transpose it to E and also move the bass notes up in bars 32-33 to fit it to a trumpet range. Obviously, the bass notes cannot be sustained under the arpeggios, so it's all in sixteenths. Here it is on Scribd.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The human factor

I recently bought a 1927 Buescher on eBay; doubt I will be keeping it. It is in a rather good condition, with the original brass straight mute and those non-standard short-shank early Buescher mouthpieces still in the case. As I was digging through the stuff, I felt something move inside the mute. A closer inspection revealed a folded sheet of paper bouncing in there. As I was pulling it out, the paper - which, I surmise, sat there for at least 50 years and possibly more - deteriorated. I noticed some writing on it and tried to put it back together.

James Harrington
Virginia Blanchard
Dorothy Grout

Who the hell are those people and what are they doing inside a mute? I truly can't think of an explanation...

As a PS, this was an early Buescher with their early-model non-standard mouthpieces and a tuning slide for a Bb/A; very well preserved except for the valve wear, and quite beautiful once cleaned and polished - but I did not care for the sound too much.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Seikilos Epitaph

In one of the earlier posts I questioned the wisdom of putting music notation on your tombstone. I might have been wrong. At least one guy achieved immortality and endless gratitude of music historians by doing just that: The Seikilos epitaph is the oldest surviving example of a complete musical composition, including musical notation, from anywhere in the world + the score.